Hannibal turned 150 years old with a party, cake and declarations of loyalty to the tiny village.
513 people live in the village, according to the U.S. Census’s 2008 estimate.Â That’s not many more than lived there when the village was founded on April 7, 1860.Â Then, as now, a downtown square held businesses, though they were more likely to be businesses that supported farming.Â Then, Hannibal was a transportation center, hosting a stagecoach stop and later, railroad lines.Â Today, important state roads cut through the village.
There have been many changes, said Lowell Newvine, a Gouverneur native who calls Hannibal “my adopted home.”Â As Hannibal’s former mayor and its historian, he knows it well.Â The roads are paved now, he said, and the scattered rural schoolhouses have been merged into a single school district.Â Water comes from municipal lines, not wells that sometimes were dug too close to septic systems.Â And the informal fire brigade has been replaced by a professional volunteer fire company, which celebrates its own 100th anniversary this year.
But it is the things that haven’t changed that people celebrated on Saturday.
“I know what it means to walk down the street and know everybody by name,” said Hannibal’s County Legislator, Terry Wilbur. “You have a problem, you call somebody, they’ll help you out.”Â “Hannibal is the place to grow a family,” said Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann.Â Hannibal Town Supervisor Ron Greenleaf added, “We are lucky to live among so many hard working, caring people.”
They gathered to celebrate the first day of sales of Newvine’s book, “A Pictorial History of Hannibal”.Â It is the fourth book to chronicle the village’s story, updating histories published in 1949, 1987 and 1994.Â Hannibal Mayor Fred Kent noted that those histories were important.Â They told him, for example, that his great-grandfather was a conductor on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves move north to freedom.Â It also told him that he was the 85th Mayor of the village.Â “Can you believe it,” he asked?
Newvine autographed copies of his book while in the hallway of the town and village hall, Hannibal’s Postmaster used a special Sesquicentennial rubber stamp on postcards and mail.Â Dozens of people lined up for a slice of birthday cake.
“I’m not sure what the village will look like in 50 years,” said Assemblyman Robert Oaks. “But we have a future and we want to claim it.”
Offering a closing blessing, former Superintendent of Schools Joe Caruana summed up the feeling in the room: “You have blessed us with a peaceful and warm place to live.”